When Disney purchased Lucasfilm and announced a new future for the Star Wars franchise, part of that future included shifting the animation wing of the company to the Disney XD channel. That meant, rather than moving the popular Clone Wars series from The Cartoon Network to XD, Disney would create a new series, Rebels, which is set to premiere later this year. With the somewhat abrupt cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it was announced that the remaining episodes that had been produced would be finished for an abbreviated final season to premiere on Netflix. Last Friday, those final thirteen episodes, dubbed “The Lost Missions,” as well as each previous episode in the Clone Wars series began streaming.
Clone Wars is set between two of the films, Episode II and Episode III, covering the frontlines of the actual intergalactic war that leads towards the creation of the Empire. The Clone Wars series is the best thing to come out of the prequels, though sadly that isn’t saying much. The show really is surprisingly great, delving deep into the battles, politics and minor characters that inhabit the Star Wars Universe during this timeframe. The final episodes start out no different, with each of the first six episodes weaving a pretty intricate and dark backstory that adds surprising substance to a story seemingly rendered substance-proof by Lucas’ flat prequels.
The first six episodes of this final, sixth season start out great, but eventually show signs of fatigue. The season begins with a space battle on a ring-like space station orbiting Ringo Vinda. During the battle one of the Clone Troopers, Tup, snaps and violently assassinates one of the Jedi by shooting her point blank in the head. Yeah, a pretty violent start to a kids show, but interesting nonetheless. And so begins the first arc of “The Lost Missions.” Tup snaps, falling into a trance-like state and spouting out sentences like “kill the Jedi” and “good soldiers follow orders.” Written off as a failure in programming, Tup is returned to Kamino, the planet where the Clones are created to undergo a series of tests.
For the first four episodes of the season, another Clone Trooper, Fives, accompanies Tup to Kamino in a well-strung together conspiracy mystery about something called Protocol 66. For people familiar with the third prequel film, Revenge of the Sith, Protocol 66 is the briefly mentioned plot device used to shift the films heroes to villains. Protocol 66 is the Emperors Tet Offensive, a trigger that turns the Clones against the Jedi’s and into the Stormtroopers that help the Empire take shape in the original films. The entire arc of Fives is well constructed and provides a fully formed backstory to compensate for the rushed composition of the prequel films.
Where Clone Wars falters however, is in that very same reliance on backstory. Between impressive zero-G space battles and the introduction of interesting new bounty hunters and droids, Clone Wars also relies way too much on stories grounded on political policy, planetary trade disputes and Senate votes. Episodes five and six of this final season fall back on that very weakness. A tired arc about political conspiracy and war funds in foreign bank accounts reduces the intense momentum created by the first four episodes to a yawn. This inconsistency perpetually takes viewers in and out of their investment with the series. With only seven episodes left, one can only hope that action and character will once again take precedence over political slog.
Read my review of the final seven episodes of Clone Wars coming later next week.